It’s always great to have toned calves. If you’re a woman, they look great in short skirts and heels; if you are a man, they add to your athletic form. But regardless of how they add to your appearance, toned calves are a great physical asset to have; they help you keep your lower body strong and can improve your movements and athletic ability in activities such as running, walking, and jumping. To build definition and toned muscles, calf-strengthening exercises should be done at least two to three times a week for best results.
Anatomy of the Calves
Your calves consists of the gastrocnemius muscle, which is the muscle that bulges out from the back of your legs, and the soleus muscle, which lies under the gastrocnemius and runs down the length of your lower leg. Any exercise targeting the calves work these muscles, but strength training is the key.
Double-Leg Calf Raise
This classic calf exercise requires only your body weight to execute. To begin, stand by something stable that you can grab on to for balance. Position yourself with your legs under your hips. Pressing down on the balls of your feet, raise your heels and push your body upwards. You should be standing on tiptoes on the balls of your feet. Hold for two seconds. Keep your core tight as you do this. Return to the starting position for one repetition. Do 12 repetitions.
Single-Leg Calf Raise
This move is similar to the double-leg calf raise except that it is only done on one leg to increase the intensity of the workout. Start in the same position as the double-leg calf raise, but this time, raise one leg and try to keep your balance on the other. Raise yourself up on the balls of your feet and hold for two seconds. Lower yourself to the starting position for one rep. Repeat 12 times.
Seated Calf Raise
The seated calf raise is another variation of the classic calf raise. On a chair, sit up straight with your feet planted firmly on the floor. Your knees, feet and hips should be aligned. Next, place a weight on your thighs. You can use weighted plates or even household items like books. Then, slowly raise your heels as high as you can, pressing down on the balls of your feet. Hold for two seconds before lowering and repeat 12 times.
Stand normally with your feet hip-width apart. Then, step forward with your right leg as far as you can. Your left leg should be extended back with your knees straight. Then, lower your body slowly by bending your right knee. Your right knee should not go over your toes. You should feel a stretch in the back of your legs. Hold the stretch for five seconds before returning to the starting position. Repeat with your other leg. The further you lunge forward, the deeper the stretch should feel.
Find a sturdy box, platform or step about 1 foot high that can take your body weight. If you are at the gym, you may use a polymeric platform or a bench. Then, jump over the box in one move. You should jump with both feet together and try to tuck in your legs. If you are not able to jump over the box, you can jump on the box instead. This move should be done 25 times for two sets. You can increase the height of the box as you get stronger.
Jump-overs also employ the use of a box or some kind of barrier. Begin by standing on one side of the barrier with feet together. In one explosive movement, jump sideways over the barrier on to the other side. Jump back to the starting position for one repetition. If possible, try not to pause in between jumps and keep a momentum going. Beginners can just do lateral jumps without the barrier, but those with advanced fitness levels can increase the height of the barrier.
Jogging is great for toning those calves. You can choose to jog outdoors or indoors on a treadmill. Begin with five minutes of light jogging to warm up. Then speed up to a comfortable pace for about 15 to 20 minutes. To increase the intensity of your workout, try to jog lightly on the balls of your feet rather than using your whole foot for each step. Also, jogging up an incline can really burn out those calves, so try to run up a hill or increase the incline on your machine.
Leg-Press Calf Raise
Hit the gym for leg-press moves as you will need to use the equipment there. This move requires the leg-press machine. Sit on the machine and get into position, sitting straight-backed on the seat with your legs hip-width apart and feet planted on the platform. Select a weight that is challenging but will not cause you to overexert yourself. Push the platform out as you extend your legs. Then, carefully slide your feet down to the bottom edge of the platform, holding it with only your toes. Your heels should be hanging off the platform. Then, point your toes and press the weight up as high as you can. Flex your ankles while you do this. Hold this position for about two seconds before releasing and then repeating. Do this move for 25 repetitions.
Donkey Calf Raise
On a donkey calf-raise machine, position yourself with the balls of your feet on the platform. Bend forward resting your forearms on the arm pad and place your lower back below the back pad. Grasping the handles with your hands, press upwards on the balls of your feet and raise your body upwards. Then, lower your heels to the floor as far down as you can go. This is one move. Try to get in 50 repetitions.
This high-intensity cardiovascular workout is also great for toning the calves. Using only a jump rope of an appropriate length for you, jump with your feet together for two minutes. Then rest for one minute. Resume jumping for another two minutes. You can alternate your jumps with one-legged jumps on each leg.
Tips and Warnings
Make sure that you execute these workouts based on your individual fitness level to avoid injury. Consult a fitness professional on the appropriate usage of gym equipment and weights. If you have had a foot, ankle or calf-muscle injury in the past, seek the advise of your medical practitioner first before undertaking any of these moves.
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